Drink driving penalties in Australia

Drink driving penalties in Australia by state

Alcohol-related driving offences, commonly known as drink driving or drunk driving is a serious issue in Australia that costs hundreds of lives each year. Despite the many government led campaigns, and lawfully enforced penalties for drink driving, cases of drink driving remains rampant, with statistics showing drunk driving as the number one contributing factor in approximately 30% of fatal crashes in Australia.

Consuming alcohol will generally impair one’s senses and make them more susceptible to making mistakes as their alertness, reaction time, vigilance, and even vision become compromised. All of these are essential functions to ensuresafe driving.

It’s important to note that the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) for driving in Australia is 0.05 BAC, while learner or probationary licence holders must only drive with a zero BAC. Different ranges of prescribed concentrations of alcohol (PCA) will warrant different forms of punishment.

With this in mind, we now study the facts, statistics and laws of drunk driving in Australian states so you can stay informed and stay safe.

Drink driving penalties in New South Wales

About one in every seven car collisions have  drink driving in NSW as a contributing factor. Recognising this issue, the state government released its Road Safety Plan in 2021, strengthening penalties to further deter drink driving and alcohol-related trauma on NSW roads.

NSW’s PCAs are as follows:

  • Novice range – an L or P plater with a BAC above zero.
  • Low range – A driver with a BAC between .05 to .079
  • Mid range – A driver with a BAC between .08 to .149
  • High range – A driver with a BAC of .15 and above
  • Special range – a special category driver with a BAC over .02
BAC Range Penalties
Low/special/novice

$603 penalty notice fine

$2,200 court-imposed fine

Immediate licence suspension (minimum three months)

Subsequent offences will result in an alcohol interlock order

Mid-range

$2,200 court-imposed fine

Immediate licence suspension (minimum 6 months)

Maximum prison term of up to 9 months

Alcohol interlock order

High range

$3,300 court-imposed fine

Immediate licence suspension (minimum 12 months)

Maximum prison term of up to 18 months

Alcohol interlock order

Subsequent offences will lead to more severe punishments, including heftier fines, longer prison terms and more extended licence disqualifications.

Drink driving penalties in Victoria

Drink driving offenders in Victoria face harsh penalties if caught. The list of offences and their relevant BAC limits can be seen below.

BAC Range Penalties
Anything above zero (for learners)

Penalty notice fine (undisclosed amount)

Learner permit cancelled

Three month driving disqualification

Required to complete a Drink Driver Behaviour Change Program

Alcohol interlock order

Zero BAC requirement for a minimum of three years

BAC between .05 and .069

Penalty notice fine (undisclosed amount)

Licence cancelled

Three-month driving disqualification

Required to complete a Drink Driver Behaviour Change Program

Alcohol interlock order

Zero BAC requirement for a minimum of three years

BAC between .07 and .10

Penalty notice fine (undisclosed amount)

Licence cancelled

Six-month driving disqualification

Required to complete a Drink Driver Behaviour Change Program

Alcohol interlock order

Zero BAC requirement for a minimum of three years

BAC between .10 and .15

Penalty notice fine (undisclosed amount)

Licence cancelled

10-14 month driving disqualification

Required to complete a Drink Driver Behaviour Change Program

Alcohol interlock order

Zero BAC requirement for a minimum of three years

BAC of .15 or more

Penalty notice fine (undisclosed amount)

Licence cancelled

15-24 month driving disqualification

Required to complete an Intensive Drink and Drug Driver Behaviour Change Program

Alcohol interlock order

Zero BAC requirement for a minimum of three years

 

Subsequent offenders will receive heftier fines, extended driving disqualifications (for a minimum of 12 months and a maximum of 4 years depending on license classifications). Jail time is reserved for more severe drunk driving motor offences, including manslaughter, negligently causing serious injury, dangerous driving causing death or serious injury and more.

Drink Drive Victoria offers behaviour change programs that have been approved by VicRoads under the Road Safety Act 1986. Their team of highly experienced and skilled drug and alcohol professionals have been accredited by VicRoads to provide you with the right guidance when needed.

Drink driving penalties in Queensland

Depending on the severity of the offence and track record, a magistrate will decide the length of licence disqualification, fines and whether the offender will be sentenced to a prison term. The severity of the offence takes into consideration the BAC limit at the time of offence and traffic history (i.e. whether the person has previously been convicted of a drink driving offence).

The penalties for first-time drink driving offences in Queensland are as follows:

BAC Range Penalties
BAC between 0.01 to .049 (L and P platers, and drivers or particular motor vehicles)

Maximum fine of $2,012

Licence disqualification of three to nine months

Maximum prison term of three months

BAC between .05 and .09

Maximum fine of $2,012

Licence disqualification of up to nine months

Maximum prison term of three months

BAC between .10 and .149

Maximum fine of $2,875

Licence disqualification of three to 12 months

Maximum prison term of six months

BAC of .15 and over

Maximum fine of $4,025

Minimum licence disqualification of six months

Maximum prison term of nine months

 

Repeat offenders face licence disqualifications of up to 24 months, have their vehicles impounded (if BAC is .15 and over), pay fines of up to $8,625 or face a prison term to be determined by the court.

Drink driving penalties in Western Australia

Western Australia employs a demerit system and has a fixed infringement fee of $1,000 to avoid being prosecuted in court. This only applies to drivers caught with a BAC of .05 to .0079. Demerits range from three to five depending on recorded BAC.

Just like in other parts of Australia, novice drivers and holders of specific special licences must have a zero BAC to be on the road. Failure to follow this law can result in licence disqualification, court penalties of up to $750 and demerit points.

Court penalties for first-time drink driving offences can be seen below.

BAC Range Penalties
BAC between .05 to .079

$1,250 maximum fine

Licence disqualification at the court’s discretion

BAC between .08 to .089

Fine between $750 to $2,250

Minimum six-month licence disqualification

BAC between .09 to .10

Fine between $850 to $2,250

Minimum seven-month licence disqualification

BAC between .11 to .12

Fine between $1,000 to $2,250

Minimum eight-month licence disqualification

BAC between .13 to .14

Fine between $1,150 to $2,250

Minimum nine-month licence disqualification

BAC of .15 and over

Fine between $1,700 to $3,750

Minimum 10-month licence disqualification

 

Repeat offenders can face fines of up to $7,500 and even lifetime disqualifications. Alcohol interlocks are mandatory in Western Australia for offenders that fulfil one of the following criteria:

  • Driving with a BAC of .15 and over
  • Convicted of dangerous driving causing death or bodily harm
  • Commited a second drunk driving offence of any kind within the last five years
  • Refuse a request for a breath sample from a member of Western Australian police

Drink driving penalties in South Australia

Apart from actual drink driving offences, offenders can be fined up to $1,600 and receive six demerits for refusing a breath test in South Australia. This is the same penalty for an offender caught driving with a BAC of .15 or over.

Penalties to be incurred and their corresponding BAC limits can be seen in the table below.

BAC Range Penalties
BAC between .05 to .079

Minimum three-month disqualification

$771 on-the-spot fine or $1,100 court fine

Four demerits

BAC between .08 to .149

Minimum six-month disqualification

$900-$1,300 fine

Five demerits

BAC of .15 or over

Minimum 12-month disqualification

$1,100-$1,600 fine

Six demerits

BAC between .08 to .149 with child under 16 in vehicle

Minimum six-month disqualification

$900-$1,300 fine

Five demerits

BAC of .15 and over with child under 16 in vehicle

Minimum 12-month disqualification

$1,100-$1,600 fine

Six demerits

 

Collecting 12 or more demerits will result in a minimum three-month disqualification. Alcohol interlock orders are reserved for severe drink driving offences, repeat offenders or those that refuse breath and blood tests.

Drink driving penalties in the Northern Territory

In the Northern Territory, the court will decide the severity of penalties that will be incurred by a drunk driving offender including how long their licence will be suspended and whether or not the offender is to pay a fine or serve jail time.

Like in other parts of Australia, penalties will depend on the BAC level at the time of the offence and the offender’s track record. The Northern Territory also employs a ‘penalty unit’ system where some amounts of money are shown as penalty units instead of dollars. Until 30 June 2023, a single penalty unit in the Northern Territory equals $162.

A breakdown of penalties in the Northern Territory are as follows:

BAC Range Penalties
BAC between .05 to .079

Minimum three-month disqualification

$400 on-the-spot fine or court ordered five penalty units

Maximum prison term of three months

BAC between .08 to .149

Minimum six-month disqualification

7.5 penalty units

Maximum prison term of six months

BAC of .15 or over

Minimum 12 disqualification

10 penalty units

Maximum prison term of 12 months

As usual, L and P platers, and drivers of certain vehicles must always record a zero BAC or face a maximum prison term of six months, with a three to six-month licence disqualification and fines.

Drink driving penalties in Tasmania

Tasmania also employs the penalty unit system (one penalty unit = $181 in Tasmania).

Below are the penalties to be faced by first-time offenders.

BAC Range Penalties
BAC less than .05

Minimum two, maximum 10 penalty units

Minimum three, maximum 12-month disqualification

Maximum three-month imprisonment term

BAC between .05 to .09

Minimum two, maximum 10 penalty units

Minimum three, maximum 12-month disqualification

Maximum three-month imprisonment term

BAC between .10 to .14

Minimum four, maximum 20 penalty units

Minimum six, maximum 18-month disqualification

Maximum six-month imprisonment term

BAC of .15 or over

Minimum five, maximum 30 penalty units

Minimum 12, maximum 36-month disqualification

Maximum 12-month imprisonment term

Drink driving penalties in Australian Capital Territory

Habitual offenders in the ACT will be subject to an alcohol interlock order by the court. All drivers convicted or found guilty of drink or drug driving offences must also complete an Alcohol and Drug Awareness course.

One penalty unit in the ACT is equivalent to $160.

First time offenders face the following penalties:

BAC Range Penalties
BAC less than .05

Five penalty units

One month minimum disqualification

Three-month default disqualification

BAC between .05 to .079

Five penalty units

Two-month minimum disqualification

Six-month default disqualification

BAC between .08 to .14

10 penalty units and/or six-month imprisonment

Three-month minimum disqualification

12-month default disqualification

BAC of .15 or over

15 penalty units and/or nine-month imprisonment

Six-month minimum disqualification

Three-year default disqualification

Repeat offenders face up to 20 penalty unit fines and imprisonment for up to 12 months.

The best and easiest way to keep track of your BAC levels is through a breathalyser.

Browse through our wide selection of AlcoSense personal breathalysers to accurately estimate your BAC levels to return home safely to your loved ones.


Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for general reference only. Please seek advice from professionals according to your business’s needs.

Written by Wafi Rashid

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